Kristen Deville and Harley Sagrera
Feature photo: Cajun Cuprace Director Damien Chassion and Board Members-At Large Hailey Moon and Ryan Ahrabi distribute race packets at Geaux Run By Fleet Feet. Photo by Kristen Deville and Harley Sagrera.
As the pandemic continues, local organizations are finding ways to remain connected with the community by hosting virtual races. Through online events, organizations are ensuring participants’ safety, while still raising money for their cause.
The Cajun Road Runners Club and Miles Perret Cancer Services took on the challenge of transitioning to virtual races. Compared to past races, where you could only attend locally, now even family and friends from out of state can share the experience.
Cajun Road Runners Club: Cajun Cup 2020
The Cajun Road Runners Club is a Lafayette-based runners club. On Nov. 12 – Nov. 15, the club hosted its 40th annual 10k and one-mile run, called the Cajun Cup. According to Damien Chaisson, the race director, they officially made the decision to switch in late August.
“Our mission statement says to grow the community in health through running and walking… We couldn’t in good conscience host a race that typically has around 1,600 runners and be healthy,” Chaisson said.
For the first time, participants had the ability to choose their running environment. According to Chaisson, runners had four days to complete the race instead of one day. Using any fitness tracker, participants could submit their run times to be eligible for awards.
According to Chaisson, they had several participants with family and friends from out of state who competed in the Cajun Cup race for the first time. Chaisson said one of the participants, an 87-year-old man, completed the race in Lafayette alongside his nephew in Maryland. Cajun Road Runners Club said they are considering adding the virtual aspect to their in-person races so residents who are out of state can continue to participate in the race in the future.
Once the club decided to have a virtual race, they provided options for people who had already registered, according to Chaisson. Runners had the option to participate virtually, defer to next year’s race or receive a refund.
Chaisson said they had fewer runners competing this year compared to races in the past. This year’s race had around 350 people signed-up, compared to the 1,600-1,800 runners they normally have, according to Chaisson.
Race registration fees are used as a fundraiser to give back to the community. A large portion of the proceeds are given to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Track and Field, and Cross Country teams. In the past, the club has also provided scholarships to high-school students planning to run for cross country or track and field in college.
Miles Perret Cancer Services: A Mile For Miles
Miles Perret Cancer Services, a non-profit organization, is hosting “A Mile for Miles,” a one-mile race taking place on Nov. 22-29. According to Sherry Hernandez, the community liaison, this is the first year they are putting on the race.
Traditionally, Miles Perret Cancer Services puts on Camellia Crossing Gleaux Run 5k the night before Thanksgiving. Hernandez said that many families enjoy the experience of participating in the Gleaux Run, but due to the safety concerns over the size of the event, Miles Perret Cancer Services created a one-mile race. They made the decision to switch to a virtual race at the end of the summer, according to Hernandez.
“We still wanted to offer something for families to do over the Thanksgiving holiday to still be able to bring them together all while supporting Miles Perret Cancer Services and local families fighting cancer,” Hernandez said.
According to Hernadez, families can participate from anywhere by walking or running the mile to support the cause. When participants register, they enter to win a $1,000 gift card. Runners have the option of tracking their time and submitting proof for an additional entry into the giveaway.
Compared to Camellia Crossing Gleaux Run, participation for A Mile For Miles is lower, according to Hernandez. This year’s race had around 500 people signed-up, compared to about 3,500 runners they normally have.
Yet, Hernandez said that sponsorship is a key part of raising money for the race. Even though sign-ups are lower, they still had the same level of sponsorship as last year.
“All of our funding comes directly from the community. It comes in from the community and goes back out either from event sponsorship, a corporate sponsor, registration fees or general donations,” Hernandez said.